Just start

Dan Barwick is an eco entrepreneur.  A few years ago he risked his family’s future on making compost.

Today he runs Turfnet, the largest landscaping and composting company in Johannesburg and has branched into managing the production of vermicast (he’s “managing” because, as he says, “the worms do all the work, I just make sure that they’re happy.”).

Dan’s not an ordinary bloke.  Firstly, he has more energy than Bruce Fordyce’s mother who runs 10 kilometers everyday.  Secondly, his vision is that the more successful people and businesses he creates around himself, the more successful, and happier, he’ll be.

But most importantly, thirdly, he started something.

This is the key to any eco-iniative.  Just start.  Having dealt with many, many businesses in my previous life in advertising, what is evident is that successful companies “do” and the less successful “debate”.

Today we live in a life of instants.  If you don’t move, the world moves beyond you (we all know that, most often, the world is moving faster than we are).  So there’s no such thing as the perfect plan.

Just start.

Apple was not the first company to have a portable MP3 player.  The first iPod was a clunker with 5Gb of storage.  I’m sure that Mr Perfection wasn’t totally enamoured with the device (although I was).  But the next one was way better.  And today we have the iPhone.

At one time – a long time ago – Toshiba made the best laptops (outside of Apple of course).  Their strategy was “live prototyping”.  They’d put products into the market accepting the idea that some – the majority – would not be a blockbuster but that the next one, based on learning, that they launched would succeed.  (It was probably an expensive way to go and today we never hear about Toshiba laptops anymore).  But the point was, even though the financial model was dicey, they knew that unless you were innovating with the market you’d be left behind.

Now we are faced with the concept of Green and Sustainability.  But, still, so many companies want to have a 100% solution before they start.

Dan has a good argument.  Environmentally sensitive programmes can be expensive in the beginning but save in the medium to long term.

He’s a golf nut.  And constantly refers to the negative environmental actions of course managers.

First of all, they are continually mowing.  And then throwing the grass clippings away.  They are continually collecting leaves, branches and other biomass and throwing it away.  They are spraying millions of liters of water onto the greens but are not collecting any.

This costs money.  And they are wasting money.

Dan just shakes his head.  He views the world differently (he mentioned that he wanted to get some horses on his extensive compost site, not for the pleasure of riding them, but because “I need their manure!”).

In his view everything a golf courses picks up is a resource.  But the managers turn it into waste (it doesn’t start off that way).  Instead of spending money on setting up a composting facility they’d rather spend hundreds of thousands of Rand on synthetic fertilisers (their excuse, “the Members want a consistent colour green on the fairway.”).

The point is not to moan about the management of golf courses, but rather to point out that everywhere we look, there is a resource that properly managed, has value.  So whether it’s our food-scraps, or cool-drink bottles, these have value.

All we have to do is think of them as a resource and not waste.

And then start.

It doesn’t have to be the 100% solution.  It can be the waste from the canteen.  The coffee grounds.  Whatever.  Just start.  Then learn.  Improve.  And before you know it you’ll have a 100% solution.